Sep 22, 2010 1:04 PM by Bea Karnes, News First 5

FDA gives approval for new MS drug

U.S. government health regulators have approved the first pill to treat the underlying causes of multiple sclerosis, a debilitating nervous system disorder that has traditionally been treated with injectable drugs.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Swiss drugmaker Novartis' treatment Gilenya to reduce relapses in patients with multiple sclerosis, who experiences loss of balance, muscle spasms and other movement problems.

There is no cure for the disease, but steroids can reduce the duration and severity of symptoms in the short term, and seven treatments on the market have had success in reducing recurrence of symptoms.

All involve daily or regular injections, which doctors say discourages some patients from keeping up with their treatment.

"One of the things Gilenya offers is an alternative to injection or infusion administration," said Dr. Nick LaRocca, of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. "Many people prefer to take a capsule because they don't like to stick needles into themselves."

Multiple sclerosis causes the body's immune system to attack the protective coatings of the brain and spinal cord. Gilenya works to reduce a type of white blood cell that often attacks the nervous system.

The FDA reviewed the drug under a priority timetable reserved for groundbreaking therapies.



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